It’s interesting, when you think from a business perspective what a core competency is, you think, it’s cost, it’s first-mover advantage, it’s trademarks, it’s brands. Often people will say, “Customer service? Anybody can do it.” But the truth of the matter is, not everybody can. We decided early on that we were going to try to be really great. The concept was underpromise and overdeliver. We ship into the evenings, we ship on the weekends, various things to get packages to people ahead of expectations.
Q. Did it work?
A. When I started, annual revenue was about $1.25 million and Internet sales were next to nothing. After that, the growth compounded at about 42 percent for four years, to over $5 million in 2006.
Q. And then it really took off in 2007 and 2008. What happened?
A. It was one of these very serendipitous things. We had gotten a few suspicious-looking orders — one-pound bags of nuts going to CBS. There was a postapocalyptic show on CBS called “Jericho” and the network said it was canceled. During the show, this town Jericho was being attacked by a neighboring town and the leader of the neighboring town said, “Surrender.” And the leader of Jericho said, “Nuts.” So fans took this as their battle cry. They said, “Let’s go send nuts to CBS.” This thing went crazy. At first we shipped U.P.S.
Then we did a few stunts. One day, I showed up with my uncle in our delivery van and dropped off 1,000 pounds. Then we hired a trucker, and I went and we dropped off 10,000 pounds. We ended up sending 40,000 pounds to CBS.
Q. That’s a lot of nuts.
A. Forty thousand pounds of peanuts in 50-pound bags, floor to ceiling, is a whole 48-foot tractor-trailer.
Q. What happened to the show?
A. We got a lot of coverage and CBS brought back the show. They flew me out to go to the fall lineup party. I met the actors, went to the set. But then it was on for another seven episodes or so and then they canceled it.
Q. Sounds like it was better for you than for the show.
A. Yeah. We ended up getting a ton of Internet traffic. When we were on KROC Los Angeles, we got like over a million visitors from that. We sold a lot of nuts to the “Jericho” fans too, but the majority didn’t come back. But with The New York Times and CNN, and the funny press, like The National Enquirer, you get all these visible, authoritative sources online, and they’re linking to you. It does a lot for your credibility in Google’s eyes.
Q. How big do you think your business would be if the “Jericho” thing hadn’t happened?
A. I would like to think we would have gotten to the same place by now. But I have no idea.